You probably don’t want to take your baby on a long, jam-packed flight. But being able to hang with your family during the holidays or chill out on a sunny beach or drink dainty cups of coffee in Vienna is reason enough to suck it up. Good news: I’ve got tips that make flying with your baby easier.
Many people will tell you that your baby will just sleep the whole way – don’t believe them.
I mean, anything is possible, so it could happen. But don’t count on it. Because the minute you do, you guarantee that your baby won’t sleep a wink. Instead, prepare yourself and feel good knowing you can handle any situation that comes up, even if you’re flying by yourself. (When you don’t have another set of hands that can help you, flying with a baby gets infinitely more difficult.)
Here’s what you should do:
#1: Ditch the Stroller.
Trust me, using a baby carrier is far better than toting a stroller around if you’re traveling with an infant or baby. You’ll have your hands free to reach up into overhead bins and use the bathroom.
#2: Plan Your Travel Outfit Carefully.
Ok, here’s the deal: You’re not aiming for cute, your goal is to wear clothes that serve a purpose. (And that purpose is to get you from A to B without losing your mind.) Slip-on shoes are a must for going through security. Sweatpants, leggings or other pants with an elastic waistband are easy to pull down in a bathroom stall with your baby still in the front carrier. Bonus points for pants that have pockets. You can stuff them with pacifiers or other small items you need to quickly access. If you’re breastfeeding, wear a nursing top.
What you definitely don’t want to wear or bring with you is a coat. It’s bulky and is just one more thing to carry once you take it off. Instead, pack it at the very top of your suitcase or carry-on and you can quickly pull it out once you land.
#3: Bypass the Security Line.
At some airports, there are special entrances through security that let people traveling with children bypass long lines. Check with your airport to see if that’s available. It’s so much better than waiting in a forever-long line with a fussy baby.
#4: Pack for the Worst.
Plan for delays, missed flights, and mid-air poopsplosions by packing extra diapers (one diaper for every hour of travel), one extra baby outfit, and more food and drink than you think your child will need.
Believe me, your extras will come in handy. Once while descending in a plane, my four-month-old had a poopsplosion that oozed up her back. I wrapped an airline blanket around her and dashed to the bathroom as soon as we landed. Because we had only minutes to catch our next flight, I threw her soiled clothes in the trash and put fresh ones on. We were the last people to board the plane, but we made it.
#5: Bring a Blanket.
It does take up a lot of space in your diaper bag, but bringing a baby blanket with you is a must. Rolled up, it can act as a soft prop for your tired arms as you hold a sleeping baby. If it’s chilly on the plane or where you land, you can use it to keep your child warm. It can also be a nursing cover or thrown on the floor during a layover so your baby has a place to stretch out.
#6: Pack Snacks and Drinks for Yourself.
Inevitably, the drink service will come around when your baby is asleep in your arms. You’re not moving to scratch an itch, let alone reach for a ginger ale. Even if your baby isn’t asleep, when your little one is on your lap there simply isn’t enough room to comfortably put your tray table down. Pack snacks you can eat one-handed (think: granola bars) and buy a drink in the airport to keep in your diaper bag. When the time is right, you’ll have what you need to tide you over.
#7: Download Audio Books.
If your child does fall asleep in your arms for most of the flight, you’ll want some form of entertainment to pass the time. Many planes have built-in TVs for each seat with shows and movies you can watch using headphones (bring your own or purchase them onboard). But some still don’t.
So now is your chance to finally “read” that novel everyone has been talking about. Plug your earbuds into your tablet, phone or iPod and put them in your ears before your child falls asleep. That way won’t have to move too much – and risk waking your baby – to press the play button.
#8: Don’t Worry About Other Passengers.
Are you scared you’ll get dirty looks from other passengers when your baby cries or fusses? Don’t sweat it. Most people are more sympathetic than you think, especially if you tell them your baby’s ears hurt because of the cabin pressure or your little one has an earache (tell them whatever you want to justify your baby’s crying).
As long as you’re trying your best to soothe your little one, people understand and some people will even go out their way to help you. I’ve had people grab something that was out of reach for me, wait patiently for me to gather my stuff to exit or pick up items we dropped along the way. And, it’s truly amazing how once quiet and content, babies make everyone smile.
Flying with a baby is tiring, but with the right planning it can go pretty smoothly. And, at the end of the journey, you’ll be on vacation or back home – either way, that’s a pretty happy ending if you ask me.
Have you flown with a baby? If so, I’d love to see what tips you have to share in the comments!